On Wednesday, Oct. 23, Springfield College welcomed speaker Mark Sterner to give a talk that is relevant in many college students’ lives: drunk driving. Sterner wasn’t a speaker who did extensive research on the topic, but was someone that was unfortunate enough to experience it firsthand. He started the powerful speech by wearing his orange jumpsuit, which he had worn in jail.
Sterner was a senior in college when he and four friends – Jim, Aaron, Pete and Darren – wanted to experience an “MTV type” spring break. The five of them set off for beautiful Sanibel, Fla. for the trip of their lives. Every night they had someone as the designated driver, but there were six nights and only five people. They all agreed that it was unfair to have someone miss out on the “fun” of spring break on the final night, so the least drunk person would drive the last night.
The message wasn’t conveyed by him telling us what to do, but by a series of videos from the infamous night, and what happened to everyone. The videos opened up in Pete’s condo. They were all talking amongst themselves, but it looked like a regular night. Then one of the friends yelled, “Let’s rage!”
After some drinking, driving and more drinking it was time for them to go back to the condo. The driver, Mark, was chosen because he was the least drunk, with a blood alcohol level that was later estimated to be .17. Mark crashed. He was going 65 mph in a 35 mph zone when he swerved off the side of the road, rolled the car, and flung his friends from the automobile. .
Jim (23-years-old) and Pete (22-years-old) were flung into trees and were pronounced dead on the scene. Aaron (22-years-old) was crushed by the car and was also dead at the scene. Mark (21-years-old) had a broken pelvis, nine broken ribs, a punctured lung and head trauma. Darren (21-years-old) only had minor injuries. None of them were wearing seat belts, but if they had their stories would be different.
Mark was left unconscious for a week, and he woke up in a hospital with his family by his side. He thought it was a dream because he felt he was still on spring break. He went back to sleep, and woke up a week later to a new greeting. This time police officers entered his room and gave him a sign. Mark went from being three months away from being the first person in his family to graduate college to becoming the first one to go to prison.
Sterner furthermore faced a maximum of 45 years in a Florida prison. The other families were relatively graceful toward him, as he was only sentenced to four years. Every day in jail Mark feared for his life and constantly regrets that night. He doesn’t want anyone to ever have to go through what he did
“I relive the worst night of my life over and over to strangers, so no one has to ever experience [what I did],” Sterner said.
The powerful speech consisted of emotional videos and photos, but not once did he try to convince ther audience of anything. In fact, the only statistic that he left them with was that more passengers are killed in DUI accidents than drivers.
These were his best friends and now they’re dead. He will never talk to any of them again. All the jokes, memories and relationships are gone. They’re all gone. Everything is gone. It’s a horrific thought that no one deserves to have happen. Mark Sterner left the crowd with one thought.
“It was the last night that my friends will ever be alive,” Sterner said. “Was it worth it?”